Today was to be my audition at La Scala.
I had scheduled the day rather tightly - I was planning on waking up promptly at 8 AM, in order to make it onto a 9:25 AM train, to arrive in Milan at 11:20, to rehearse with the pianist at noon for a 1PM audition. But I figured with all the running around maybe I wouldn't have a chance to get too nervous about singing an audition at LA SCALA and that might be a good thing.
I woke up on time, and took maybe a few minutes more to get ready than I had anticipated, but the thing I hadn't planned on was the traffic in Torino. They close the main street for some reason, and there were a couple of accidents slowing things down, and I didn't arrive at the train station until about 9:24. I ran like a crazy person for the train (in my heels) and just as I arrived at the track, I saw the train pulling away. No biggie, I thought, this is Torino to Milano - a very popular route - there will be another train in about 20 minutes. So I went to the biglietteria and was informed that the next train for Milan left at 11:18 and arrived at 12:40 in Milan. At first I didn't believe the guy behind the counter, and when he turned his computer around to show me the schedule I almost started crying. My audition was supposed to be at 1:00 in Milan - was I really going to have to cancel the whole thing because I arrived at the train station one minute late? I decided better late than never, changed my ticket, had my friend Vincenzo call the theater and explain what was going on, and that I would just have to make a run for it when I got there. The problem was that a) now I wouldn't get to rehearse with the pianist and b) now I probably wouldn't have time or a place to warm up.
I was pacing around the Torino train station waiting for the next train to leave when I thought about the fact that Italians are really nice and supportive of opera singers. I went back to the nice man who had changed my ticket, and asked as sweetly as I could if there was maybe a small room I could warm up in because you see, I'm an opera singer, and I have an audition today at LA SCALA and now, because I missed the train, I wouldn't have time to warm up!! And he said he couldn't help me, but I should try the passenger help desk around the corner.
So I made my way to that office thinking, well, this is probably kind of a long shot, but it's worth a try. I told the story to the nice lady behind the counter, emphasizing LA SCALA and MUST WARM UP THE VOICE, and surprisingly, she took pity on me. She took me around the corner to the eurostar lounge (like the business class lounge at the airport) but it was all open to the rest of the offices and I explained, "but it will be very loud" and grinned at her sheepishly. She explained the situation to the eurostar lounge hostess, who suggested I use the bathroom because there are a couple of sets of doors between the inside and the outside. So I gratefully made my way into the stall with the toilet, shut the door, pulled out my little casio keyboard, and sang full out for about 10 minutes until I felt a little more like a singer again. I thanked the eurostar lady profusely and made my way to my train.
I got into Milan Central train station at about 12:45 and hopped in a taxi hoping for the best. I arrived at the artists entrance just about 1:10, and eventually found my way to the floor with the offices. They put me in a (beautifully appointed) dressing room for about 5 minutes - just enough time to use the bathroom and sing a few scales, and then ushered me to the stage. OF LA SCALA. I waited for the guy who was singing to finish La Calunia, and then it was my turn. A few more steps and there I was, on the stage of LA SCALA, looking at that famous facade of beautiful red and gold boxes and seats. I handed the pianist my binder of music and he took it while looking at me quizically like "who the hell are you? I rehearsed with all the singers, I thought.." but I just opened it to Parto Parto and apologized for missing the rehearsal. "Okay," he told me in italian, " but stand close to the piano so I can hear you since we didn't rehearse" (it was a little upright on stage right). So I sang Parto Parto, and it went remarkably well. Then they asked for Una voce poco fa, which also went quite well. I had absolutely no opportunity to get nervous or to psych myself out about the fact that I was singing on the stage of LA SCALA, and so I was completely relaxed and actually enjoying myself, taking time with the parts I liked and playing with dynamics and phrasing. It was actually the most relaxed I've been in an audition in awhile.
I have no idea what will come of the audition, but for now, I'm really content with how it went and the fact that I at least once in my life sang on the stage of La Scala. When I analyze why I wasn't more careful about planning and taking an earlier train and leaving plenty of extra time to get to the station, I have to guess that I was trying to be as normal and easy going as possible about the whole endeavor so as not to freak myself out about a big audition, and it kind of worked. I was too busy dealing with the details of travel to get all worked up and nervous, and I was actually able to just sing and enjoy myself. Would I recommend this strategy? Not exactly, because I could have totally missed the audition, and had they asked for something I didn't know as well as Parto or Una Voce, it might have been difficult without a rehearsal with the pianist. Plus it's just irresponsible to miss trains and arrive places late. But in general, I think it might actually be a good rule to live by - just normalize your life around your opera commitments, and they will be easier and more fun and less of A BIG DEAL. BUT don't expect the officials in every train station in every country to let you warm up in their lounge bathrooms - it takes italians to understand the importance of an opera singer on a mission.
BRA -VA! What a crazy day with a wonderful ending...thank God! I'm so excited for you over your La Scala audition (!!!) and wildly impressed at your resourcefulness. You're a smart cookie, Jenny Jo. I'll be happy to have you back to hear your stories in person, but I'm so glad you're writing in the meantime!
What a great story. It must be nice to live in a country where regular people understand and appreciate opera! Keep us posted on the outcome of your LA SCALA audition!
Catherine K. Brown
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